American walnut creates a conducive and inspiring mood for reading and learning at Zayed University’s new Campus Library
Located in the heart of the Zayed University campus in Abu Dhabi, the new Campus Library was designed by Hadi Teherani, an internationally renowned architect from Germany. Construction of the new facility took over seven months to complete and has been widely received and praised by both students and staff as an attractive and very endearing venue for research and reading. AHK Interiors, a leading interior design, project design and management firm was awarded the joinery works for the new Abu Dhabi campus and signed an AED 15 million (USD 4 million) contract with Al Habtoor Murray and Roberts Venture. The contract included the construction and implementation of fixed joinery, general cupboards, feature glass walls, timber floors and radial shelving.
The new Zayed Campus Library, which is one of the largest university libraries in the Middle East, measures approximately 40,000 square metres and is part of the 28 new buildings that have been completed for the new campus inside Khalifa City. Particular focus was given to the new library, which is the university’s premier learning resource facility for both students and faculty. The library, which has been valued at over AED 3 billion, takes on a circular arena-like setting and houses around 150,000 books from the Zayed Library collection.
The architects founded their design on traditional amphitheatres, so students can sit around a circular based theatre while the teacher can lecture from the centre. AHK Interiors specified American walnut throughout the whole library from the library’s flooring and bookshelves, to the wall featured wood cladding. Walnut was chosen for its dark earthy colour and strong aesthetic presence. The AHK design team was asked to present the library in such a way that it showcased a joint-less veneer appearance, highlighting the continuous flow of the natural grain of American walnut.
“We had chosen to use American walnut across the whole library because of its strong characteristics, including its straight grained appearance and its durability, being highly resistant to heartwood decay. This new library lives, breathes and emanates the key beauty provided by such a strong and durable hardwood like American walnut. In fact, the walnut creates a modern look while keeping true to the nostalgia of historic libraries. The timber also warms the environment and simultaneously provides a modern, classic and comfortable feeling,” said Carrie Das, Design Manager, AHK Interiors.
Construction for the library took at least seven months with over 200 workers working on and off site. The initial two months were spent in AHK’s 15,000m2 furniture factory in Antalya, Turkey, ensuring the delivery of the best quality service in terms of production. Work off site at the factory included the production of the book shelves. 17 tonnes of 30 mm veneered MDF were produced which was then cut according to the curved radius on the CNC machine and wrapped around the structural steel elements which were to remain concealed behind the veneered shelves and vertical gables. The following five months covered the installation of structural steel elements, veneered MDF installations, timber floor installation and the welding and installation of the powder coated perforated sheeting.
During the implementation of the design, the team also had to deal with key challenges in installing the large bookshelves, which had a height of four metres. The timber had to be book-matched to maintain the specified continuous grain lines. In terms of grain alignment, the top of each bookcase, which was clearly visible from the third floors, had to be aligned from the centre point to the laminate on top.
The end result is a warm spherical reading and research facility that holds 4,500 bookshelves made up of 12,000 m2 of walnut veneer with seven different levels ranging from 3m to 8m in height. The library’s shelves are presented in a circular row setting with special sections housing search computers and seating areas where students can spend time reading. The centralised seating area provides a contrast view from the third floor and the tiered shelves harmoniously match the ceiling’s tiered design. The library also has a reverse wall behind the reception counter, which blends well with the bookshelves and the contrasting off-white second reception desk.
“We are very pleased with the results achieved in using American walnut for this project. The end product has an amazing feeling of a traditional library amidst a modern facility like the new Zayed University campus. So far, we have been getting very good feedback from students, faculty and visitors saying it is a great space,” concluded Vicki Aronis, Design Manager, Al Habtoor, Murray & Roberts.
The new Zayed University Campus in Khalifa City covers an 80-hectare expanse that will house all academic buildings, recreation facilities and residential accommodation. The final build out of the campus will eventually provide education facilities for 6,000 students, as well as related faculty and support staff. Khalifa City is part of the UAE capital’s move to concentrate the government, academic and knowledge-based sectors, accommodating departmental offices and embassies, as well as national health and educational institutions.